Tuesday, September 16, 2003

On Moving

"Men and women may sometimes, after great effort, achieve a creditable lie; but the house, which is their temple, cannot say anything save the truth of those who have lived in it." - Rudyard Kipling

The boxes wait, neatly labelled and sealed, for two men who will come to them in the morning. The things inside, wrapped and buffered against the moving world, lie like relics in hidden sanctuaries, though they mean nothing to anyone but me. Last week they had their hallowed places in the rooms of this place; made of the empty rooms a home. Or, if not a home, then a temporary museum.

My life provides artifacts for a moving museum. And where I live, for a year or two or three, becomes the setting. I live with detritus: I hesitate to refer to it as personal treasure. Things. Fond scraps of yesterday's feast; incense to trigger recall; spices to charge tomorrow's creative plate. Pictures of the children as babies; pictures of me as a baby. I could be looking at strangers. The pottery my sister made. This year my daughter is the same age as my sister was when she died. I will be glad when my daughter's next birthday arrives; it will mean that she has escaped the curse of death at twenty-three.

Paintings. I have too many for such a small amount of wall space. Three hundred books. A ceramic shortbread mould from Hampton Court. Pressed flowers picked in St. Ives, dried leaves from northern California. Hundreds of sea shells. Receipts. Old letters, bundled with ribbon.

This place will lie empty tomorrow. The walls will not tell the truth of me. I did not choose their colour.

If I could build a shelter, it would be by the sea and have so many windows you would not know if you were in or out. People would gather to cook and eat together. They would laugh and sing. They would be so comfortable that it would be easy for them to daydream and to be foolish if they wanted to be.

Until then, hitch the horse to the gypsy wagon and pack all the things safely away. No one can read me from the empty rooms I leave behind. The oven is so clean it looks as though it has never been used and I've plastered over the nail holes where the paintings once were.

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